For anyone who lives in Van Nuys, and has not lately visited Raymer St. between Kester and Van Nuys Bl., the Festival of Garbage is now in full display.
Dumped along the median from the bridge to the boulevard are tons of trash. It is perhaps the filthiest, most appalling and most wretched scene of degradation in the entire city of Los Angeles.
Calcutta looks like Beverly Hills compared to this.
Across from the sanitation crisis is a large recycling center, an irony that one might analogize to having an indifferent fire department next door to a burning building. If you are in the business of collecting refuse, how can you refuse to clean up the area around your business?
Adding to the criminality of the area, dozens of unhitched trucking trailers are parked along the road, taking up space, and attached to no moving vehicles.
The bridge over the railroad tracks has been, naturally, taken over by the homeless who live under, in and on top of the structure. They cross on foot over the tracks where Metrolink speeds by a few times an hour.
Does Los Angeles have any measure of pride? How does the city allow this tsunami of trash?
Who is responsible for this mess?
I vote for Councilwoman Nury Martinez and Mayor Eric Garcetti.
After many days of successive, concussive waves of rain swirling into Los Angeles, the hills in Griffith Park were wet, green, and soaked.
I walked there, yesterday afternoon, along the bike path, and the bridle path, at the point where the 134 roars alongside the LA River.
The storm, now depleted, had moved east, sent into exile. And in the distance, under dark clouds, I saw the Verdugo Mountains, the flat roofed towers of Glendale, and all the man-made highways and power lines: showered and renewed, glistening and spot lighted by sun.
The littered homeless encampment on the island in the middle of the river was vacated. There was nobody else around but me, except for a lone man riding a child’s bike.
A bridge over the waters and the freeway, a bridge under construction, its metal rods exposed, a messy conglomeration of concrete, lumber, fencing and plywood, that incomplete, torn-up bridge evoked others before her time destroyed by floods.
Angelenos in the 1930s and before lived in fear of the river and put their hope in President Roosevelt. Now we trust the river and fear our president.
Once we trembled under the fury of nature. Now we shudder under the drama of political malfeasance.
After 1940, the army conquered the unpredictable river, contained its fast water, and controlled its deadly fury.
Tomorrow, we trust, we hope, will fold out and reveal itself as it did in Genesis.
“Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. And God said
never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
In the past few years, group lead mourning on social media for a lost Sunset Strip has taken hold among some sad eyed nostalgists. In their online rooms they pine for 1997, 1977, 1957 or 1937 and wish it were just like that today.
Gone are Tower Records, Elton John’s Le Dome Restaurant, Spago, The Playboy Club; Gazzari’s, which introduced the world to The Doors and Van Halen; Villa Nova Restaurant where Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe had a first date; Ciro’s, a 1940s nightclub; and Café Trocadero. Passed on are the cars, the clothes, the songs, and the youth of those who frequented whatever was young and hot at the time.
We are so far in the future but our minds are so far in the past.
Perhaps the saddest thing to contemplate is the loss of the old Garden of Allah that stood on two acres at the corner of Crescent Heights and Sunset and comprised a pool and landscaped cottages set amidst trees and flowers. It was constructed in 1913 and played host to a variety of notables, most famously F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was razed in 1960.
Standing in its place is a schlocky shopping mall and a bank with a folded zigzag roof. That structure, originally called Lytton Savings and Loan, and now housing a Chase Bank, is the center of a fight over preservation and architect Frank Gehry, who wants to demolish the building to erect one of his crushed-in-hand, aluminum foil wonders.
If Sunset Strip had no celebrities, if it were just a place, it would be one of the ugliest and least appealing urban sites in the world. Pockmarked by billboards, drenched in liquor and demeaned by fame, the Strip, from Crescent Heights to La Cienega looks like Las Vegas’s forgotten cousin.
New buildings are going up that channel the worst of Las Vegas anti-urbanism with blank sheets of walls, endless rows of dark windows, and morose hues of black and gray punctuated by large rectangles where future digital signs will obliterate the night and frazzle the eye.
There is no gayety (in the old sense of the word), no frivolity, no fantasy in any of the new, sharp-angled structures that so aggressively bulk up the street like steroid filled bouncers in a club. They have inhuman, robotic, cold-blooded designs, fueled by architecture that will impress teenage Shanghai, Moscow, and Seoul.
And, sadly, there is no presence of personality or character of Los Angeles in the new buildings. They are aliens dropped onto the street, and their presence is foreboding and corporate.
In daylight, photographed in black and white, their vapidity is most evident.
Old Los Angeles was in love with alabaster white buildings that glistened in the sun and reflected purity, cleanliness and España. Before 1940, this metropolis built to provide sanctuary from the sun, to humanize the city, and to give guidance and signposts to the newly arrived seeking meaning in a vast and disorienting environment.
New Los Angeles has no markers of civic virtue. It is an entertainment chessboard devised on an app and sent out to to billions of people to make billions of dollars.
A few weeks ago I received a lovely email, and some photos from Tom Cluster, a reader of this blog.
Here is one excerpt:
I just discovered your blog about Van Nuys. I’m entranced by it. I’m almost 70. Our family moved to 6944 Columbus Avenue in the summer of 1955. It was a small tract of new homes. We moved from Westchester (near LAX). A lot of people moved from Westchester to the Valley because the airport was expanding and streets were being eaten up. Our new neighborhood was between Kester, Vose, Sepulveda, and Vanowen.
The local celebrity was Andy Devine, who still lived in his big house on 6947 Kester, down near Basset. At Halloween he’d hand out small boxes of Sugar Pops. There was an old swimming pool across the street that he had built years before – the Crystal Plunge – and we’d swim there in the summer. We had smog alerts in those days and if there was a big rain we wouldn’t go to school because Kester St. would flood.
There was a family on Vose who sold eggs from their chickens – the mother and father had survived the Holocaust and had the tattooed numbers on their forearms.
[Then as now] It would get hot and there was no air conditioning, not at Valerio School (which in 1955-1956 was at the corner of Kester and Valerio, consisting entirely of temporary buildings with a dirt playground) and not in our homes. Still, I have fond memories of Van Nuys.
The area where the Presbyterian Hospital is now was a big empty field full of tumbleweeds – we’d make forts and paths there. When the hospital was built it was small compared to what it is today. It was just two circular wings designed by William Leonard Pereira. (1909-1985) of Pereira and Luckman.
(Valley Presbyterian Hospital images courtesy of LAPL)
If you look at a map, you’ll see that Noble, Burnett, and Columbus extend from Basset to Marlin Place – the 6900 block. The houses from 6900 up to 6932 were built in 1951, the houses beginning at 6932 were built in 1955. Our houses (6932 and up) were in an old walnut grove, so there was plenty of shade.
I’ve attached a picture out front of our house. The older end of the street didn’t have walnut trees and it always seemed hot. What we didn’t understand was that the walnut trees would all soon die because sidewalks and asphalt and lawns aren’t good for them. At that point our end of the street got hot and the trees that had been planted at the other end of the street grew up and gave it shade. We moved out in 1962. The people who bought our house are still there – probably the longest residing family in that block of Columbus.
If you look at Street View for 6944 Columbus you’ll see that it’s perfectly manicured. The builder of our little tract was named Arthur Guyer – he built tracts throughout the Valley. He built 15153 Marlin Place for himself in about 1957.
There was another local celebrity on that street, although he wasn’t famous then. The Cerf family lived at 6932 Columbus, and Vinton Cerf, the oldest son, was attending Robert Fulton Jr. High. Vinton is famous as the “father of the Internet”. He and a buddy invented TCP/IP while at UCLA. The Cerfs left Van Nuys about the same time we did.
I won’t bore you with my memories of all the commercial establishments, but I will mention that Kenny’s Automotive at 14852 Vanowen, near Kester, was there in the 1950’s, just as it is today. Another hold out from the old days is Lloyd’s Market, at 7219 Kester. It was called Lloyd’s even back then, and we’d stop there every day when we walked home from Valerio.
A light rain fell yesterday morning, and after the weather system left, the skies were clear, the sun came out, a few clouds hung in the sky. And I went for late afternoon walk with camera.
Near Bessemer and Cedros, in front of the Valley Planing Mill, along the sidewalk bordering the Orange Line, is a metastasizing and makeshift encampment of homeless men and women.
It has grown, to encompass an area that probably accommodates some fifty people, who have erected tarp-covered boxes, umbrellas, tents, and wood crates as shelter from the rain and the sun. Around the temporary housing are shopping baskets piled high with anything and everything one might buy at Target.
A green metal fence, protecting new cars owned by Keyes Chevrolet, encircles a rented out parking lot leased from Metro. It provides a safe and civilized enclosure for automobiles. Vehicles are well taken care of, except for one or two burned up, sitting in their spaces with melted and deformed bodies.
Humans (who did not want to be photographed) are left to fend for themselves on public sidewalks. Bed sheets and rattan mats are hung on the fence to sanitize. Privacy, cleanliness, and dignity are pulled out of dumpsters and transformed into street fortresses.
The situation here is appalling. But words do not suffice. And moralism, directed at politicians, developers, law enforcement, social workers and the homeless themselves cannot make sense of this 21st Century barbarism in our Golden State.